As busy as Thursday’s NBA trade deadline was, with a swap of high scorers in Golden State and Minnesota, as well as the Los Angeles Clippers making a great team even better, even more uniform exchanges could have taken place if the scenarios unfolded just right.
Even in the lead-up to the deadline, the NBA unfurled one of the biggest trades in decades as a four-team confabulation made changes in Minnesota, Houston, Atlanta and Denver.
So what failed to happen?
The Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics both stayed out of the fray.
And the Chicago Bulls were neither buyers or sellers, when either one could have made sense, as the franchise of Michael Jordan has managed to become irrelevant.
Here are five trade-deadline deals that should have gone down at the deadline:
5. Andre Drummond to the Celtics
The Detroit Pistons shipped their rebounding machine to the Cleveland Cavaliers for spare parts, but the basketball world would have been better off if Drummond landed in Boston. Maybe the Celtics know that overcoming the Milwaukee Bucks in the East is a fool’s errand this year. Maybe the Pistons didn’t want to send Drummond to a place where he might stick around for a while and haunt them later. The Bucks are probably going to the NBA Finals, but seeing them have to go through a Celtics team with Drummond on it would have been the kind of playoff matchup everybody is looking for.
4. A sign of anything from the Bulls
So the Bulls were not interested in moving either Zach LaVine or Lauri Markkanen, that much is obvious, even though LaVine is in way over his head as a No. 1 scoring option and Markkanen would prefer to be elsewhere, like say the Dallas Mavericks, Utah Jazz or Denver Nuggets. Plenty of teams need a solid third-scoring option, a role which LaVine could thrive in if he was willing to accept it. But the Bulls didn’t even have to go the blockbuster trade route. It seems like it would have made sense to deal a solid veteran like Thaddeus Young, who still has value since he can defend, shoot from distance and has been well liked at every stop of his long road. It’s not like the Bulls are using his skill set to maximum potential.
3. Kyle Kuzma to the Kings
Playing behind LeBron James and Anthony Davis would be nice for anyone, and Kuzma probably is appreciative of the opportunity, but the evidence has shown that he isn’t quite certain of his role anymore. Here were Kuzma’s scoring totals from a six-game stretch starting on Christmas Day: 25, 24, 0, 19, 10, 4. He is nowhere near as confident or consistent as the player who scored 18.7 points a game last season before Davis arrived, and grabbed 6.3 rebounds in his rookie season of 2017-18. Kuzma would fit marvelously within the young core of a Kings team that has not been playing as consistently as its talent suggests it could. Reports are that the Lakers wanted more than Nemanja Bjelica and the Kings weren’t willing to depart with Bogdan Bogdanovic. In the end … no deal.
2. Danilo Gallinari to the Pacers
The Oklahoma City Thunder seem to be getting more cohesive as a unit by the day, and even the hour, so the team’s desire to hold on to Gallinari makes sense. The 6-foot-10 long-distance scoring machine has worked well with the budding Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the veteran Chris Paul. But Gallinari is a free agent after this season and the idea of him staying in OKC is unlikely. Gallinari could have provided the Pacers the scoring threat they need as Victor Oladipo works himself back into form after a year away because of a torn tendon in his knee. The Pacers are in the thick of things in the Eastern Conference playoff chance. Gallinari could have solidified that standing.
1. Derrick Rose to the Lakers
The Detroit Pistons obviously were selling, sending Drummond, the NBA’s rebounding leader, to the Cleveland. Sure, Drummond’s opt-out after the season had plenty to do with it. So why not move the veteran Rose, who has reinvented himself as a backup point guard/scorer who is a positive influence in the locker room? The Lakers don’t necessarily need the locker-room-whisperer part, but with Rajon Rondo’s decreased production, and wildly inconsistent results at best, strengthening the second unit would have served the Los Angeles well in its attempt to hold off the rest of the Western Conference.